Perhaps not the most timely of posts, but seeing that the new year has only begun to feebly rise on it’s newborn legs in this first week of January, it’s not so crazy of me to think backwards a few days to the moment we changed calendars again.
As gifts were going into boxes and being adorned by bright papers and ribbons, I still had no idea what to give my Japanese teacher for the holidays. In most cases, I wouldn’t spend so much time fussing over a teacher gift, but Keiko Sensei has been so understanding and accommodating of the past four years that I’ve known her, she really did deserve some special thanks for the holidays. The dilemma, of course, was that I wasn’t even sure if she celebrated Christmas in the first place! Going the safer route, I knew that New Years was a particularly important day in Japanese culture, so I decided to borrow one of it’s most important symbols – the Kagami Mochi.
Traditionally made of two small lumps of pounded rice stacked up like a miniature snow man and topped with a diminutive mikan or daidai (Similar to a small orange), every respectable household in Japan will display their kagami mochi just in time for the New Year. It typically sits around for a week or so after the appointed date, at which time it will be a bit drier and cracked, primed to be broken up and eaten by members of the family to celebrate a fresh start.
In my house, I make a cheater’s mochi made of nothing more than mochiko (Glutenous rice flour) blended with water and formed into the standard shapes, no pounding or kneading necessary. It tends to be much more brittle than the real thing, so we never actually eat our mochi. In fact, it’s become a new tradition as of last year that approximately one week after January 1st, we take our mochi out into the backyard, douse it with lighter fluid, and… Torch the thing. No, I am not making this up.
Anyway… My yarn-based mochi was a pretty hot commodity, too. Sensei loved it, finding a home for it on the shelf in class as well. She didn’t make me bleed this time, but I’ll just assume she still loved it just as much since I wasn’t in the room when she chose to unwrap it.
Now, I can’t wait until night falls so that this year’s real kagami mochi can bite the dust like a smoldering asteroid fallen in our backyard. Such a sweet way to start the new year, don’t you think?